Interview: Steve Cradock (Ocean Colour Scene, Paul Weller) – part 1
Published on February 5th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Having spent the best part of two decades as virtuoso guitarist to both Ocean Colour Scene and Paul Weller, Steve Cradock finally got around to recording a batch of his own material in 2009. The resultant album, The Kundalini Target, moved Liam Gallagher to hail it as the modern day All Things Must Pass, and 2011 follow-up Peace City West confirmed Cradock’s belated arrival as a songwriting force unto himself, expertly welding breezy harmonies and a golden-age-of-pop sensibility onto gritty riffs and energising rhythms in a way that made total sense of his long-since-established ability to bring out the best in other people’s songs.
What’s more, this recent flurry of activity is set to continue well into the foreseeable future; a third solo album is already being demoed, brand new Weller outing Sonik Kicks is set for an April release and a five-night residency at London’s Roundhouse in support of it (click here to buy tickets), while plans are afoot to start writing the tenth Ocean Colour Scene album later on in the year.
Oh yes, and there is also the small matter of a solo UK tour (click here to buy tickets), the first date of which Rocksucker was present for at Brixton Jamm last Thursday night. We recommend that you get on this current tour to catch Steve in an intimate acoustic setting before he goes back to playing the big venues.
After allowing Peace City West to soundtrack an unusually sunny winter’s day, we caught up with Steve on the eve of the Brixton Jamm gig to ask him about his various projects, finding him in buoyant mood as he prepared to hit the road once again…
“Last Days of the Old World” (from Peace City West)
How much new material will you be airing on this tour? I couldn’t help but notice your Tweet saying that you’ve been recording demos of late…
I have. I’ve got I think probably half an album recorded. I’ll do a few gigs first to get grounded on it all, then slowly add a few new ones into the set. So by the end of the tour, we’ll hopefully be doing a couple of new ones. It’s the first gig tomorrow [at Brixton Jamm] so we’re just going to get through the set and settle down, really. I think I’ve got twenty-two gigs booked, so there’s plenty of time for shenanigans! I just want to ground everything a little bit during the first few gigs.
On 26th February, you’ll be playing at the newly reopened Eric’s venue on Mathew Street, right in the heart of Beatles-ville. Have you played around there before?
No, but I’ve got pissed down there many a time! I’ve never played the Cavern Club but I always nip in when I’m down there to have a few beers and listen to what’s going on. Eric’s was a legendary club, wasn’t it? Apparently for twenty-five years it was just a place where they stored beer. It’s incredible, isn’t it? I remember seeing pictures of people like The Stranglers, The Clash and The Jam there. There used to be TV shows filmed at Eric’s as well, where they’d record bands live. So I was well aware of the club.
What can you tell us about your new album? Or is it too early in the process to really say?
I hope to release it in September. I’ve got all of April booked in the studio so I’ll get it finished then. That’s all I can say about it, really.
“Running Away” (from The Kundalini Target)
Was being a solo artist something you always wanted to do, or was it something that just suddenly made sense one day?
I didn’t really want to play any shows when the first one came out, to be honest with you. I was just pleased that I’d made the record. It only took me six days to record The Kundalini Target so it was a thing that I did quite quickly and I didn’t really think about it. Obviously when you’ve only got one album and it’s only about thirty-three minutes long, you can’t really go out and tour that much, so it wasn’t until we worked on Peace City West that we thought we could make it go a bit live. Last year we toured Germany and did a couple of tours in England; we supported Beady Eye, and played the iTunes festival, which was really good, and a few other festivals. So it was only last year that it started sprouting, really.
Are you going to be going back to Devon to record the new one?
I am going to record it there, yeah, but I’m not sure where I’m going to mix it. I might mix it at Paul’s studio, but I’m definitely going to record it all down in Devon.
How much of the instrumentation and vocals do you handle? Is it mostly you doing the harmonies, bar the odd special guest? I know you play the drums as well…
I do play the drums, although for Peace City West I had a drummer called Tony Coote who did all the drumming, and my wife Sally sings. Apart from that, I think I play most of it myself, but that only leaves guitars, bass and pianos.
“I-Man” (from Peace City West)
It’s impressively epic-sounding stuff considering. How’s Sonik Kicks shaping up? Is it all finished?
Yeah, it’s all finished. It’s been in the bag for quite a few months now, coming out at the end of March, I think. It sounds great, sort of like an art-rock album.
Are there any special guests on this one?
Yeah, there was a few. I think Noel Gallagher plays guitar on it, and Graham Coxon. He’s got Sean from The High Llamas doing string arrangements.
Rocksucker loves Sean O’Hagan, and his Llamas! He’s also done some wonderful string arrangements for Super Furry Animals.
Yeah, that’s right. I think he’s working with Tim Burgess as well.
“Only Look Up When You’re Down” (from Peace City West)
Will there be a tour to follow?
I don’t think Paul wants to tour. He’s doing five nights at the Roundhouse in March, and then he’s just going to do one-off special gigs, I think.
He’s just had twins, hasn’t he? How are they doing, little John-Paul and Bowie?
John-Paul and Bowie, yeah! I’ve seen a couple of pictures of them and, yeah, they look handsome. I think everything’s going well, Hannah’s doing well and Paul’s really enjoying it.
Has the ‘wow’ factor of working alongside one of your heroes worn off yet?
I’m not one to have heroes, really. I’ve been working with him for about eighteen years now, and I think it was like that when I was 22 or 23 and first starting out with him. I just think he’s a great artist; he’s always moving in different directions, especially with the last three albums, so it’s great to be a part of it all.
“On and On” (from The Kundalini Target)
You were there for what is commonly seen as the ‘relaunch’ of his career, namely the Wild Wood and Stanley Road albums…
I suppose I started playing on Wild Wood, so yeah, I would have been. I joined his live band then as well, so I’ve been with him through different incarnations.
Rocksucker submits that you were the catalyst for his return to prominence.
Was I? You said that, not me!
Steve Cradock will play the following UK dates in February and March…(click here for links to buy tickets)…
Thu, 09 Feb 2012 Scotland (The Tolbooth, Tolbooth, Jail Wynd, Sterling, FK8 1DE)
Fri, 10 Feb 2012 Scotland (Maggie May, 60, The Trongate, Glasgow. G15EP)
Sat, 11 Feb 2012 Scotland (The Attic, 57-59 Hopetoun St, Bathgate, EH48 4PB)
Sun, 12 Feb 2012 Scotland (Dirty Martinis, 8 Langlands Street, Kilmarnock)
Fri, 17 Feb 2012 Birmingham (HMV Institute, Digbeth)
Sat, 18 Feb 2012 Tumbridge Wells (The Forum. Fronthill, The Common, TN48YU)
Thu, 23 Feb 2012 Manchester (The Ruby Lounge, 28-34, High St, Manchester, M4 1QB)
Fri, 24 Feb 2012 Wigan (Indiependence, Kings St West, Wigan)
Sat, 25 Feb 2012 Scunthorpe (The Priory, Ashby Rd)
Sun, 26 Feb 2012 Liverpool (Erics Live, Mathew St, )
Wed, 29 Feb 2012 Yorkshire (Wakefield)
Wed, 29 Feb 2012 Wakefield (THE HOP – 17, Bank St Wakefield Wf1 1EH)
Thu, 01 Mar 2012 Blackburn (The Live Lounge, 79, Northgate, Blackburn, Lancs BB21AA)
Fri, 02 Mar 2012 Cleesthorpe (Pleasure Island)
Sat, 03 Mar 2012 Hull (The Piper Club)
Sun, 04 Mar 2012 Newcastle (O2 Academy)
For more information, please visit www.stevecradock.com